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ADV NewsWatch Dakar 2020 Recap: American Ricky Brabec Takes Historic Win

Watch Dakar 2020 Recap: American Ricky Brabec Takes Historic Win

Daily stage updates and video recaps of the Dakar Rally 2020.

Published on 01.17.2020

Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 17, 2020: FINAL STAGE

  • Total distance covered: 429 km
  • Route: Haradh to Qiddiya

Ricky Brabec and his Honda CRF450 Rally made history in Saudi Arabia today to become the first American ever to win the Dakar Rally. This represents the sixth victory at the Dakar for Honda and ends a long drought for the manufacturer who last won the rally 31 years ago. Brabec’s victory also puts an end to KTM’s impressive 18-year winning streak.

Brabec dominated the rally from start to finish. The Californian moved into the lead after the third special and solidly defended his advantage throughout the remaining stages. Brabec concluded the rally with two stage victories and after finishing today’s final stage in second place, was able to seal the victory he sought over the past 5 editions. In contrast with last year, when his Honda bike let him down with three stages to go, this time it worked like clockwork all the way to the finish line. 

It is a well-deserved reward for a rider who always tackled the race head-on, but also for Honda, which reaped the fruits of its patience since its official return to the Dakar in 2013. Year after year, the HRC team remained steadfast in the face of adversity, eventually managing to develop a reliable motorbike with the magic formula for success.

Ricky Brabec: “At the end, we put the pieces to the puzzle together. It’s quite an accomplishment for America, for Honda, for the whole entire Team. No, I’m excited. I was getting chills the last 30km. The bike was working really good. I’m really happy. To be here at the finish of the Dakar. It’s my fifth Dakar, my second time finishing… I woke up this morning just happy to ride the last day. And we’re here. We won! I don’t know, I spent a lot time training with my buddy Jimmy Lewis/trainer and just spent a lot of time doing roadbooks from Morocco. I think just being smart and focused every day. Doesn’t matter there is no top guy on the team. We all worked together, this is a team effort. We’re a family. We all won. All Honda won.”


No one else was more aggressive than Pablo Quintanilla behind Brabec. The Chilean biker rode his Husqvarna to a rock-solid second place, 16 minutes behind Brabec, and made amends for last year when an injury knocked him out of the race when he was also tackling the final stage in second place overall.

Husqvarna rider, Pablo Quintanilla takes 2nd place overall. Photo DPPI Media

“Being in [second] position, I already feel like a winner. I’ve been through so many things after the injury. I’m really grateful to be here. The main goal was to finish on the bike without injuries. Honestly, when we started the race I never thought that I would be in the front, but in the end things started to happen,” added Quintanilla.

KTM rider and 2019 title holder, Toby Price, takes 3rd place overall. Photo DPPI Media

Defending bike champion Toby Price‘s rollercoaster race ended with third place, 24 minutes behind maiden winner Ricky Brabec. Toby, who tried to assist Paulo Gonçalves by more than an hour after his tragic crash in stage 7, has had one of the toughest rallies of his career.

Toby Price: “I’m still on the podium. Definitely, it’s not the result we come for, but with the 2 weeks we had I’m quite glad to keep my podium streak going. This, for me, is a big achievement, especially after these two weeks being tough. We just regroup and get ready for the Dakar 2021 and we come back here to try and get that number 1 plate back. Well, 2 weeks have gone wrong. Some things were out of my control. I lost 16 minutes with a bib-mousse falling apart. Then the first day I had the roadbook lock up on me, the roadbook tore. Stage 7 is one that I’ll remember forever for Paulo, but not for a good reason. Since then my head hasn’t been 100%. But we’re at the finish line safe. I’m going to be able to go home, think things over. Come back hopefully better and stronger next year.”
Toby Price congratulates Dakar 2020 winner, Ricky Brabec. Photo DPPI Media

Price’s teammate and 2018 champion Matthias Walkner of Austria finished fifth, while Argentine Luciano Benavides produced a career best sixth. Also in the top 10 for the USA are Skyler Howes in ninth place and Andrew Short in tenth.

Spaniard Laia Sanz rode well again to finish in 18th as the highest female rider with Austrian sporting legend Martin Freinademetz holding on back in 68th. Sanz, 34, said: “I’ve started 10 Dakars and I’ve finished all 10. This is something that is really difficult and it’s an achievement I’m very proud of.”

Finally, Romanian Emanuel Gyenes claimed victory in the Original by Motul class with more than an hour to spare over Benjamin Melot.

The rally covered about 5,000 kilometres of timed special stages and a total distance of 7,800 kilometres. 234 out of the 342 vehicles that started the rally in Jeddah (68.4%) appear in the final general classification: 96 motorbikes, 12 quads, 57 cars, 29 SSVs and 40 trucks. A further 22 vehicles withdrew from the race but reached Qiddiya under Dakar Experience rules.

The edition will be remembered for the fatal stage 7 crash suffered by Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves, who was a much loved and respected rider within the bivouac.

Stage 12 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

January 16, 2020: STAGE 11

  • Total distance covered: 744 km
  • Route: Shubaytah to Haradh
The Empty Quarter, a vast expanse almost as big as France, boasts long, unbroken successions of dunes stretching for 80 kilometres. In contrast with yesterday, when the prevailing winds interrupted stage 10, the weather today made the terrain far more hospitable.

Today, Pablo Quintanilla left nothing in the tank. Still in hot pursuit of Ricky Brabec for the overall win, the Chilean pulled out all the stops, claiming his second stage in three days by only a few seconds ahead of Matthias Walkner. However, Quintanilla never came close to loosening Brabec’s iron grip on the general classification. “It is always a nice feeling to win a stage. It was really difficult and I gave it my 100% from the beginning. I took back a lot of time from Ricky, but there is still a big difference between us,” added Pablo.

Pablo Quintanilla wins the stage, however Ricky Brabec still has an iron grip on the general classification. Photo by DPPI Media

Brabec’s strategy today was more conservative, finishing the stage in 10th place. His ‘slow and steady’ approach caused him to lose 12 minutes to stage winner Quintanilla but the American rider wanted to preserve his energy for the big and final day tomorrow. Even though his overall lead has now been halved, it should still be a healthy margin going into the closing stage of the Dakar.

Ricky Brabec: “You know, today was a big distance so fuel mileage was definitely a concern. I rode about 70% I was just trying to conserve the body and the bike. I’m happy we made it to here, so we’ll go back to the bivouac, prepare for tomorrow and have a good starting position for tomorrow, and not necessarily push, but just get to the finish line tomorrow. Tomorrow could be a really big day for us, so we’ll keep the positive vibes for sure.”
Toby Price took 5th place, moving him up to 3rd overall. Photo by DPPI Media

Defending champion Toby Price had his second-to-last chance to close the gap with the overall leader. Price, took 5th place elevating him to third overall as Spaniard Joan Barreda slipped back. Although the Australian is back on the podium, he is quite aware of the slim chances he has of claiming a third Dakar crown this year with only 1 more day to go. Price, 32, explained: “Honda just needs to protect their lead. The guys are riding fast and riding smart. We’re doing our best, we’re trying to keep in the fight.”

Price’s teammate and 2018 champion, Matthias Walkner, had a magnificent duel with Quintanilla today, finishing only nine seconds behind the stage winner to move up to fourth in the standings. “It was one of my best days. I pushed hard in the long dune sector. I love this kind of stage. The end was much faster. I ran out of fuel 3 km before the refueling station, so I had to stop for a while and get back going again, but I think I posted a good time.”

Argentine Luciano Benavides achieved his best result since the start of the rally with third place today and moved up to 7th place overall, just 5 minutes behind Joan Barreda. “It was the first time that we crossed the big dunes, so at the beginning I enjoyed it a lot. I’m really happy because there’s only one more day to go. To be inside the top 5 would be nice, I’m really close. We’ll see tomorrow.”

Stage 11 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

January 15, 2020: STAGE 10

  • Total distance covered: 608 km
  • Route: Haradh to Shubaytah

Today’s stage was shortened due to strong winds and several crashes which prompted race directors to halt the race after 345 km for safety reasons.

After a cautious first week, Joan Barreda continues to improve his form with a stage win today. But has Barreda taken too much time to hit top pace? Although the Spaniard grabbed his first victory in this year’s rally on completion of a shortened stage, he must feel hopeless to thwart the supremacy of his teammate Ricky Brabec, who again increased his lead in the general standings. With a second-place finish today, Brabec now leads Pablo Quintanilla by 25 minutes and Joan Barreda by 27.

Joan Barreda: “It was not easy for me in the first week, but after that I got a better feeling, especially on the sandy stages, where I feel more comfortable. We’ll see – there are still two stages. It will not be easy because tomorrow we are starting from here with a lot of dunes. It is always difficult, but we will try to do a good job. It will be really tough and difficult to keep the podium, because tomorrow I’ll be starting in front and all the fast riders will be behind, plus also in between I think there are other riders. So for the victory there will be Toby and Pablo and they will have more time to catch me. But it’s like this. What’s important is to go day by day. Tomorrow we will do all again and there are two stages still.”
Ricky Brabec seems unstoppable increasing his lead once again in the general standings. Photo by Monster Energy Honda Team

In turn, Toby Price is within striking distance of Joan Barreda but is finding it hard to close the wide gap between him and Brabec. To make matters worse, the shortening of the stage by race officials made it tougher for the title holder to gain any significant time.

For privateer Garrett Poucher it was a day he would like to forget as he was looking to achieve his goal: to improve on his 32nd place on the Dakar last year. However, the hopes of the American rider, who was 23rd in the general standings this morning, have been crushed by a fall after 120 km of the special resulting in fractures to his back, hip and wrist.

“Have to make this quick but want to update everyone. I crashed in the dunes today., stage 10. Lost rear brakes and couldn’t stop at a 10m tall dune. Jumped off the dune at speed and the bike nose dived. I ditched the bike and hit the ground ass first. Thankfully Rodney was there at the bottom helping Metge and he called for assistance. The ASO helicopter came quick while #35 parked at the top of the dune and waved people by. Im at the hospital now in Ryadh and just received the news. I broke my lower back, left hip, and left wrist. All are unstable and need surgery. I’m waiting now to see what their plan is with surgery. I’m going to try and get home as quickly as possible and not get stuck here! Thank you to everyone that helped out today. I really appreciate it. I’m in good spirits but bummed I crashed out in this way.” — Garrett Poucher

View this post on Instagram

Have to make this quick but want to update everyone. I crashed in the dunes today., stage 10. Lost rear brakes and couldn’t stop at a 10m tall dune. Jumped off the dune at speed and the bike nose dived. I ditched the bike and hit the ground ass first. Thankfully Rodney was there at the bottom helping Metge and he called for assistance. The ASO helicopter came quick while #35 parked at the top of the dune and waved people by. Im at the hospital now in Ryadh and just received the news. I broke my lower back, left hip, and left wrist. All are unstable and need surgery. I’m waiting now to see what their plan is with surgery. I’m going to try and get home as quickly as possible and not get stuck here! Thank you to everyone that helped out today. I really appreciate it. I’m in good spirits but bummed I crashed out in this way.

A post shared by Garrett Poucher (@garrett_poucher) on

Stage 10 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

January 14, 2020: STAGE 9

  • Total distance covered: 886 km
  • Route: Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh

After the tragic loss of their friend Paulo Goncalves, riders are trying their hardest to keep their focus on the race. Ricky Brabec achieved the fourth best time on the stage and still has a solid lead of almost 21 minutes in the general standings, losing only three minutes to Pablo Quintanilla. Brabec commented: “Everything is definitely playing in my favor. I’m pretty stoked about that and excited – it’s another day closer to an American dream. But, there’s still three days left. It’s not very easy right now with the absence of Paulo. We’re just trying to stay focused and stay calm and maintain the advantage.”

Ricky Brabec maintains a solid lead in the overall standings. | Photo: Monster Energy Honda Team

Pablo Quintanilla moved up a gear on the way to Haradh, to finally become a stage winner in 2020 ahead of the title holder. The Husqvarna rider, woke up this morning in 2nd place in the general standings behind Ricky Brabec, and was therefore forced to go on the attack if he wanted to continue to believe in his chances of seizing a win that has avoided him for so many years. Despite having a sore wrist over the last few days, the Chilean took full advantage of his starting position to put in a faultless performance and pick up his first stage victory since the start of the rally and the fourth in his career on the Dakar.

“It was a tough day today. It was really difficult to start the day, to catch the rhythm after what happened to Paulo. After the refuelling I started to feel good and I started to push and in the end it looks like I won, so this stage win is in honor of Paulo”.

Toby Price, was also forced to go on the attack to try and reduce the gap opened up so far by Ricky Brabec in the general standings. Though he finished second on the day’s stage, Price is struggling to regain time on Brabec. The Australian is still separated from the American by 26 minutes. Price commented: “You have your good moments and you have your bad ones and unfortunately 2020 hasn’t quite been good for us but we’ll still keep giving it a good fight and see how we go.”

Price’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider – Matthias Walkner was also placed in the top 10 on Stage 9. Weakened by a severe sore throat, the winner in 2018 is nonetheless within striking distance of an honorable finish, in 6th position overall.

Laia Sanz remains the highest-ranked female rider in Saudi Arabia, advancing to 17th overall after another solid stage. “I enjoyed the beginning of the stage because it was more technical. Then after the refueling it was just flat out, full gas,” she explained.

Stage 9 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

January 13, 2020 : STAGE 8

As a mark of respect, Stage 8 has been cancelled for motorcycles and quads in order to give riders time to mourn their friend, Paulo Goncalves.

January 12, 2020: STAGE 7

• Total distance covered: 741 km

Tragic news coming out today from Dakar. One of its most experienced and beloved competitors, Paulo Goncalves, passed away after a crash in today’s stage. Paulo was immensely respected by both veterans and less experienced competitors alike and his ‘never quit’ attitude embodied the spirit of Dakar.

The fatal accident happened 273 kilometers into the Riyadh to Wadi Al Dawasir stage route. One of the first to reach the scene of the accident was Toby Price, who along with Kevin Benavides and Stefan Svitko tried in vain to assist Paulo. More details here.

Race director David Castera stated: “Paulo was an iconic figure who had been on the Dakar for a long time. Everyone knew him. He was really tenacious.”

Argentine Kevin Benavides was given back the six minutes he stopped to aid Paulo Goncalves and was declared the stage winner of the bike category, with fellow Honda rider Joan Barreda following him in second position and KTM’s Matthias Walkner in third. Defending champion Toby Price stopped for more than an hour to help Paulo but still finished seventh on the stage after a time adjustment. He now sits 29 minutes behind the leader in the 4th overall position.

Meanwhile Honda’s Ricky Brabec managed to extend his overall lead in the standings with a 5th-place finish. The American now leads by over 24 minutes from Chilean Pablo Quintanilla in second and Jose Ignacio Cornejo third.

As a mark of respect to such a beloved figure in the Dakar bivouac, Monday’s motorbike and quad stage has been cancelled in order to give riders time to mourn their friend. 

Stage 7 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

January 11, 2020: REST DAY

After six stages, the first edition of the Dakar held in Saudi Arabia has reached the capital Riyadh, where riders are enjoying a deserved rest day as they patch up their bodies and bikes ahead of the second half of the race on Sunday.

Is Ricky Brabec on track to win the Dakar for the first time? The American is still keeping his guard up despite holding a lead of more than 20 minutes over second place holder Pablo Quintanilla as the rally heads into its second week.

After failing to finish the three previous editions, Ricky is painfully aware that the race is not over until it is over, and a lot can happen with six stages to go. One thing is for sure: Brabec has flawlessly executed his plan for the first part of the rally, which seemed to have his name’s written all over it. Riding on technical and rugged terrain not unlike the tracks on which he trains back home in California, he avoided all the pitfalls while setting the fastest pace. Since moving into the lead after stage 3 around Neom, he has discreetly made his first down payment on the first edition of the Dakar held in Saudi Arabia. The American’s brilliant performance in the first half of the rally has raised Honda’s hopes of ending a drought that stretches over three decades back.

Ricky Brabec holds the overall lead. | Photo A.S.O./Dakar

Flanked by teammates Cornejo and Barreda, who is getting stronger as the race goes on, and despite losing Kevin Benavides to a broken engine in the stage to Riyadh, Brabec is turning up the heat on KTM, which has maintained an iron grip on the race for 19 years.

The winner of the last edition in Peru, Toby Price, has taken two stages so far, but he has been rather inconsistent and destroyed his rear tire between Ha’il and Riyadh, where he conceded over 16 minutes to Brabec. In further bad news for KTM, Sam Sunderland crashed out of the race in stage 5. However, the Austrian can still take comfort from the fact that Pablo Quintanilla and his Husqvarna remain within striking distance. Meanwhile, the first half of the rally was a true ordeal for Yamaha, which lost its two leaders, Adrien Van Beveren and Xavier de Soultrait, to injuries in quick succession.

28 of the 41 bikers racing without support in the Original by Motul class are still eligible for the general classification at the midpoint of the race, led by Romania’s Emmanuel Gyenes by over an hour over Florent Vayssade and 1 h 43′ over Benjamin Melot.


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Author: ADV Pulse Staff

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